A Visit With Jan Brett


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

51 thoughts on “A Visit With Jan Brett

  1. Thank you for continuing to write and illustrate such beautiful books! I love, love, love Annie and the Wild Animals. 🙂

  2. Oh course Gingerbread Baby and the Mitten are favorites of the kids but I love Noah’s Ark’s illustrations. Thank you for this opportunity!

  3. It is so hard to pick a favorite because Jan Brett’s books are wonderful. If I had to choose it would be “The Umbrella.” I read that one every year when the rain forest unit is taking place.

  4. Our class is right in the middle of our Jan Brett author study and it is going wonderfully! While we like all of the books, so far our class favorite is “Hedgie’s Surprise.” My students laugh every time the Tomten gets tricked …. but especially when he’s ‘stuck’ by Hedgie.

  5. I ♥♥♥ Jan Brett books!!! It’s so hard to narrow it down because I’ve never read one I didn’t like so….my favorite(s) are The Hat & The Mitten ☺

  6. I absolutely adore Jan Brett and she remains my favorite author. I would be over the moon to have a copy of The Mermaid. It is one of the few books that I do not yet own. This may just be one of my favorites and I love the fact that the octopus in the story is modeled after the octopus at my local aquarium in Boston. It has a fabulous connection to our classroom that makes it even more fun to read!

  7. My favorite is the classic The MItten. I have collected various versions for a compare and contrast unit. I collect her books, even strudglling readers get much out of the illustrations. I even met Jan Brett at a conference one year.

  8. I love all her books as do my kiddos. But my all time favorite is the gingerbread baby. I look forward to many years of reading Jan Brett books

  9. I have been a Jan Brett fan for years and years and Santa brings her newest book at Christmas every year. My all time favorite is Annie and the Wild Animals without a doubt.

  10. The mitten is my favorite. Our kids worked through a treasury of her stories during the winter holidays. The pictures and stories are so sweet and funny. No one wants to be cuddled up next to a hedgehog.. and of course, the poor, poor granny and her stretched out mitten!

  11. So many are my favorites! I’d have to say The Trouble with Trolls and I love The Umbrella! It would be a nice birthday gift to get The Mermaid!

  12. I love her book The Mitten. In one of my college classes we got to make puppets to go along with the book. My infants love when I use the puppets to read the book.

  13. I love all of Jan Brett’s books. But, if I had to pick one, it would be The Wild Christmas Reindeer. I love Christmas. I love Santa. I love reindeer. And, this book is a great introduction to a discussion about why teamwork is so important.

  14. I loved reading her books to my daughter and to my class. I’d have to say my favorite would be The Animals’ Santa

  15. I have loved Jan Brett’s work for many years! When I taught second grade we always did a unit with Jan Brett’s books. But my favorite has to be “The Mitten”!

  16. When I taught kindergarten, Jan Brett was always one of our authors of the month. All month long we would read Jan Brett books and discuss her illustrations! My personal favorite Jan Brett book, The Mitten.

  17. I love The Mitten! I just used it in my preschool class last week! We had a friend knit us a giant white mitten that we could stuff all the animals in. The children acted out the story over and over!!!

  18. Love The Mitten and working on the The Hat! My kids really enjoy understanding the why Nikki is dressed the way he is and why his grandma is called Baba. I love when they can learn to see the bigger through a story.

  19. My favorite Jan Brett book is The Mitten. I have a huge mitten and flannel board pieces to go along with the story! It helps my students with sequencing, and retelling the story!

  20. My first graders love her books and pour over the illustrations. They are all my favorites, but my MOST favorite might be The Gingerbread Baby.

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