Jan Brett brings the story (and art) of ‘The Snowy Nap’ to town

November 30, 2018

“Young Hedgie sniffed the chilly wind. Snow is on the way, he thought. I’ll just take a last ramble around the farm. He did not want to miss a moment.”

In Jan Brett’s new book, “The Snowy Nap,” that little hedgehog’s moment turns into a curious adventure in a wintertime Denmark.

“Hedgie wants to stay up for winter,” Brett said, “but it doesn’t work out, and he gets rescued.”

“The Snowy Nap” is both written and illustrated by Brett. While her intricately detailed paintings are watercolor, they are crafted in an untraditional way – using more of a dry brush technique and utilizing pigments similar to a color pencil consistency.

The resulting life-like images are bold, yet delicate, and allow the reader to get fully swept into the story’s world.

“People think children need simple,” Brett said. “Well, yes, they don’t have a big vocabulary, but that’s why they gravitate to these books that have all these beautiful illustrations. The curiosity is stimulated.

“If you look at any child in the picture book age, they just want to discover,” she said. “They just want adventures and discovery, but they don’t have all the tools. All of the sudden with a book, the locks are unlocked.”

Brett’s own curiosity is stimulated, too, while creating her stories, which can take around a year to finish.

“A lot of times, I’ll go to a place, and this time it was in Denmark,” she said. “I’ll have a cartoon story dummy in place, and I’ll have a treasure hunt.”

She’ll take note of the styles of sweaters, homes, textiles and even animals of the time and place she is writing about.

That level of research adds to the level of imagination packed into her children’s books. On her book tour, Brett hopes she can share that imagination and inspire others to do the same – even allowing attendees to bring their own art supplies and draw along with her.

“I do it all thinking that I want them to write a book. I’ll tell them about getting an idea, the plot, the setting, my traveling, and hints (or even secrets) about drawing,” she said. “I love to just share with them the creative process. This is a way I can share my world with them.”

The book, which claimed a spot on the New York Times bestseller list, joins the company of Brett’s more than 42 million books in print. But this is actually the Massachusetts author’s first bedtime story.

“I’ve never done one before,” she said, “and when I made up the story, I didn’t even think of it being a ‘goodnight story.’”

But in the end, Hedgie ends his winter adventure “dreaming of icicles and snowmen, snowflakes and pond ice. It was a long snowy nap.”

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