Renowned children’s author Jan Brett will give children and parents a peek into her creative process on her latest picture book at a presentation and book signing this week.
Brett will be at Books-A-Million in the Aiken Mall from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday as part of her tour promoting “Mossy,” her latest book, which arrived in bookstores on Sept. 18. Inspired by one of the occupants of the turtle pond on the grounds of her Massachusetts home, the book tells the tale of a box turtle with an entire terrarium of plant life growing on its shell.
“I’ll bring a pad and pencil and do a drawing demonstration. I do a 20-minute presentation to give the children an insight into getting the ideas for my books; the presentation is geared toward their own writing. I want to create an atmosphere where children can think, ‘Maybe I could be a write or an illustrator.’ I always try to make the signings fun,” she said.
Children are welcome to bring pads and pencils for a lesson in drawing Mossy the turtle during the presentation, Brett said. The first 100 in the book signing line will receive a free poster, and there will be bookplates available to children with more of Brett’s books at home. Her signature character Hedgie the Hedgehog, who appears in all of her books, will be at Books-A-Million to pose for pictures with children, as well.
Brett said that while she is a good storyteller, the illustrations in her books are top priority.
“I try to make them very detailed; that’s what I liked as a child. I try to create a world. People ask how I know when a piece is done, and I say when I feel like I can step into a picture, it’s done,” she said.
Among her formative influences were children’s authors Wanda Gogg and Beatrix Potter.
“One main influence was that mountain among molehills, Beatrix Potter. She’d often put in a word too advanced for me, but she was very canny because it would be in context and I could tell immediately what it meant. I loved that,” said Brett. “I think children don’t like to be talked down to by a book.”
Brett said visitors at the book signing are welcome to bring examples of their own artwork to show her. The gesture is a throwback to the support her own family showed her artistic efforts throughout her childhood.
“My mother was a teacher, and she was always giving us art supplies; she encouraged creativity. My uncle was a professional illustrator; he died when I was very young, but I met him, and he drew my portrait, and I was aware of what he did, and it made me think I could do it, too,” she said.
“I think everybody zones in on an age of their life that was important to them, and for me it’s age 6 or 7. I had that boundless energy, and every day was a new adventure, and my books were so important to me then. I used to make promises to myself when I read them, ‘I’ll never do something like that in MY books.’ Even then, I knew.”
For information about the book signing or to reserve copies of her books, call Books-A-Million at 642-0261.
Suzanne Stone is a general assignment reporter at the Aiken Standard. She is a graduate of the Savannah College of Art & Design and studied communications at Augusta State University. She is a native of Augusta.