Review & Author Signing: The Animals' Santa by Jan Brett

Title: The Animals' Santa
Author: Jan Brett
Publication Date: October 1st, 2014
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Genre: Children's Picture Book, Holiday
Pages: 32
ISBN: 0399257845

Synopsis (from Author):
When Big Snowshoe tells Little Snow that the animals’ Santa is coming with presents for everyone, Little Snow wants to know who he is. The animals say they have never seen him.  Maybe he’s a badger, a moose, a polar bear, or a wolf, they tell him.  But this spunky little rabbit thinks they are just fooling him.

On Christmas Eve, Big Snowshoe finds a way to see the animals' Santa when a Snowy Owl in a red cap swoops down with a pack full of presents.  Never again will an excited Little Snow doubt that there is an animals' Santa.

With over thirty nine million books in print, Jan Brett is one of the nation's foremost author illustrators of children's books.   Jan lives in a seacoast town in Massachusetts, close to where she grew up.   During the summer her family moves to a home in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts.

    As a child, Jan Brett decided to be an illustrator and spent many hours reading and drawing. She says, "I remember the special quiet of rainy days when I felt that 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."

    As a student at the Boston Museum School, she spent hours in the Museum of Fine Arts. "It was overwhelming to see the room-size landscapes and towering stone sculptures, and then moments later to refocus on delicately embroidered kimonos and ancient porcelain," she says. "I'm delighted and surprised when fragments of these beautiful images come back to me in my painting."

    Travel is also a constant inspiration. Together with her husband, Joe Hearne, who is a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Jan visits many different countries where she researches the architecture and costumes that appear in her work. "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."

If you've ever read the Ukrainian Folktale, The Mitten, then you've experienced Jan Brett at her finest.  And if you loved her work then, you will definitely love it now! I was lucky enough to meet Miss Brett at a book signing right here in Springfield at our local library. The last time she was here the wait was over an hour, and that was about 7 or 8 years ago, so this was definitely a treat!

The first 20 minutes were Brett teaching us about her method for creating her animal characters. She proceeded to draw a bunny, step-by-step, with a simple set of pencils and markers. Children were able to imitate what she was doing, and some of their pictures were really impressive! The end result looked like this:
She drew that in about 15 minutes! I wish I was that talented!

After that, we all broke for the book signing, which, I was lucky enough to run into someone at Barnes & Noble earlier that day who works at the library and she tipped me and another lady that tickets were being handed out at 2:00 so you could be one of the first to get your book signed. Lucky us! I ended up being number 16 and unfortunately with over 200 people behind me, we didn't get to talk for long, but we had a nice snippet about NPR's Best Books of 2014 and were able to get a picture together. I also got to express my admiration for her illustrations, so I guess not all was lost. :) I do hope I get the chance to feature and/or meet her again! She was definitely pleasant to meet.

Now, you're probably wondering about this new title, The Animals' Santa. According to Brett, there was no specific inspiration for this book other than her own mere musings as to which creature would make the perfect Santa for the animal world. She came to the conclusion that it could be none other than the majestic Snowy Owl. Why? According to Brett, "He wintered in the Arctic, and I knew that an owl's feathers have a soft leading edge, allowing it to fly without making a sound." Well, that makes sense!

Set in northern Canada, The Animals' Santa explores more than just the question of "what kind of animal is Santa?" With the gorgeous, intricate illustrations you and your child can enjoy the beauty of the wintery wonderland the animals inhabit. Brett uses a Native American approach to the borders of the pages, incorporating an old technique with porcupine quills that create the frames. In the story, the character of Big Snowshoe creates chimes out of thin pieces of ice. Apparently, the thin pieces of ice that cover many of the streams in northern Canada produce ringing tones similar to chimes, so Brett also used this in her story. I thought it was really cool how she still managed to make such a simple plot into an educational experience for children (and adults! I had no idea).

I'm completely enthralled by this book. I could look at the pages over and over again just so I can soak in the gorgeous illustrations! I'm very impressed with Jan Brett's dual ability to create such an artistic book, but also have the skill to write the words that go with it. This is a great book for kids ages 3-7, but if you enjoy art, then it's a great book for you, too!

Be sure to check out Jan Brett's website where you can find additional materials that coincide with the book, like expansive information on the animals and Christmas card printouts! 

Here's me getting my book signed, and enjoying some other fun parts of the event:

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