By Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership
Take your family on a trip into a wintery wonderland in Jan Brett’s magical children’s stories. Travel by book through her snowy landscapes that depict arctic animals in their winter white fur or in Scandinavia with mischievous trolls hiding among the snow-covered evergreens.
Brett’s illustrations are detailed watercolors that she creates after researching and sometimes visiting faraway places like Russia or Switzerland. Many of her books are reworked traditional folk tales such as “The Mitten,” “The Three Snow Bears,” and “The Gingerbread Baby.” All of her books are delightful and a feast for the eyes.
Brett began illustrating children’s books in 1978 and started writing and illustrating her own books in 1985. Brett lives just south of Boston, MA, but studies the remote locations of each of her stories so she can include authentic costumes and realistic animals and plants of the area. Each page has images of the story surrounded by a border made of artifacts and other cultural details, including cameo portraits of characters in ovals.
If your children are fascinated with “I spy” games, they will want to look at Brett’s illustrations over and over again. A little know fact is that because Brett’s favorite animal is a hedgehog, she includes a hedgehog in almost every one of her books, even if it’s not quite the right climate. Keep a lookout for the little animal as you are enjoying her stories.
Brett has more than a dozen books with winter settings and another handful specifically about Christmas. Unfortunately she has no books of other winter holidays, but does have many more retellings of classic tales such as “The Owl and the Pussycat,” “Cinderella,” and “The Hat.” She also has one story set in India, “The Tale of the Tiger Slippers,” one in Africa, “The Three Little Dassies,” and “The Umbrella,” set in Costa Rica.
Jan Brett’s latest book is entitled “Cozy.” Following the progressive story line of “The Mitten,” Cozy the Musk-Ox offers a warm and snug place to one Alaskan animal after another until there are more animals than could possibly fit under Cozy’s long, thick fur. Readers will learn about polar animals, their habitats, and behaviors as they see the fantastical story unfold. Combining realism with the magical notion that animals can talk to each other makes an endearing and memorable story.
For a listing of Jan Brett’s books, videos showing her illustration techniques, a wealth of activities, and even a card generator that uses her artwork to create cards you can print out, visit her website: www.janbrett.com.
Family Reading Partnership is a community coalition that has joined forces to promote family reading. For information visit www.familyreading.org. You can also find them on Facebook and Instagram.