Friday, December 4, 2009

Jan Brett's Winter Wonderland

Open one of the magical, winter-themed picture books by author-illustrator Jan Brett and you'll be swept into a sparkling, white world where you'll breathe frosty air, trudge through crunchy snowdrifts, and meet captivating children and their furry friends. You'll settle into the warm glow of a cozy, country cottage, filled with handmade rugs, rustic furniture and the tempting aroma of freshly-baked gingerbread.

Jan Brett, who has more than 34 million books in print, lives in Massachusetts. As a child, she spent hours reading and drawing. As an adult, she and her husband have traveled to many parts of the world for her research on the locations that appear in her books. Here's what she says on her website:

"I remember the special quiet of rainy days when I felt I could enter the pages of my beautiful picture books. Now I try to recreate that feeling of believing that the imaginary place I'm drawing really exists. The detail in my work helps to convince me, and I hope others as well, that such places might be real. . . From cave paintings to Norwegian sleighs, to Japanese gardens, I study the traditions of the many countries I visit and use them as a starting point for my children's books."

The Valentine Bears, which was one of the earliest books illustrated by Brett, was written by Eve Bunting and published in 1983. Brett used only two colors, a soft tan and a muted cherry red, to highlight the Native American costumes worn by Mr. and Mrs. Bear, who share honey and crunchy dried beetles during a special Valentine party in their cozy den, deep in a wintry forest.

In contrast, The Three Snow Bears, retold and illustrated by Brett in 2007, depicts creamy white polar bears in an Artic world of blue ice and white snow. The Inuit people in the story wear furry, warm clothes trimmed in authentic designs and bright colors.

Take a look inside a Ukranian cottage as you read the story that unfolds in Brett's retelling of The Mitten, a folktale about some michevous forest animals who find a child's lost mitten.

Visit Scandanavia and watch the antics of some pesky trolls on a snowy mountain peak in Brett's The Trouble with Trolls. While some of the story's characters are climbing past snow-clad fir trees and skiing down steep slopes, the trolls are having a party in their underground burrow. Brett paints incredible detail and humor into the borders of her pages.

And that's all she wrote. . . Thanks for reading my online articles during the past two years. I've tried to spotlight some of the special collections and services that are unique to the Santa Clara City Library, with frequent focus on my particular areas of interest and responsibility, our multicultural holiday books and our "On the Path to Good Health" program. You'll be meeting a new Youth Services writer next week. She has many ideas, and she's ready to share them with you.
I'm signing off. . . jtb